Inside Launch Academy

Launch Academy | BCBusiness
Launch Academy shares an office space with Growlab Ventures Inc., a tech company accelerator.

Launch Academy is ground zero for Vancouver’s startup community

Painted in block letters on the wall of the third-floor lobby of 128 West Hastings Street: Adepto Cacas Factum, or roughly translated from Latin to English, Get Shit Done. If you want to watch a technology startup evolve from idea to high-growth company, the 12,000-square-foot loft space shared by business incubator Launch Academy and Growlab Ventures Inc. would be a good place to start.

Launch Academy is the non-profit foundation that operates a shared office space for early-stage technology companies, housing 70 startups, a business accelerator and offices for three boutique venture capital firms. Entrepreneurs can rent desks, from about $250 a month, and rent includes access to events, a network of mentors and perks from sponsors, such as software from Microsoft and free website hosting.

Launch Academy was founded by Ray Walia in 2012. “In essence we’re trying to establish a centre for entrepreneurship: anyone can take an idea, launch an idea and fund it under one roof,” says Walia, now director of Launch Academy. “We’re taking entrepreneurs out of mom and dad’s garage and bringing them into a shared space with fellow entrepreneurs who are fighting the same problems, enabling them to access the same resources.” 

Inspired by Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator and Techstars NYC, Launch Academy has brought on a bevy of corporate sponsors, including Microsoft, BDC and Deloitte, all of which provide connections and perks such as an in-house games room for entrepreneurs using the space.

Phone Booths
With 67 startups sharing one office, a private call comes at a premium. The space boasts three phone booths on wheels, custom designed by Launch Academy founder Ray Walia’s father. “We have a lot of people ask if they can get one,” says Walia, “but he doesn’t build them, so we’ve contracted them out to a construction company.”

Desk Space
Desk space—typically intended for one- to two-person teams—goes for $250 a month at Launch Academy. A desk on the Growlab side is harder to come by: companies compete for around 10 three-month spots a year.

Long hours mean a well-used kitchen, with a dedicated beer fridge—for Fridays and weekends only—a foosball table and space for weekly lectures on entrepreneurship. “We have people who buy groceries and cook here,” says Jackie Murchison, Launch Academy program director.